Sons are funny creatures. I should know, I have one, and I think I may be of embarrassment to him. It doesn’t help that I constantly broadcast his less competent moments on this blog, about which he is endearingly long-suffering. So I thought it was about time I redressed the balance. Because although I seem to spend every waking minute talking to him in a high-pitched voice, and most of our conversations revolve around grades, mass Xbox slaughter and the odd school project, he still has the capacity to make me laugh out loud, and then take my breath away with his kindness. And then just as I start to go misty eyed, I’ll open the fridge and discover that yet again, he has drunk all of the milk and is now mercilessly teasing his sister.
We have a firm belief in our family that in terms of children, you get what you’re given and make the best of them. It’s held true for Tom. From the minute he was born, he watched the world, and waited to see what it would bring. He didn’t want to be picked up and held, and cuddling resulted in a sturdy arm pushing you away so that he could turn around and see the room. He’s still the same today. His early years were spent carefully observing the world and only joining in when he fully understood the rules of the playground. Repeated relocations have not changed his fundamental make-up – he spends the first months or years of each move learning how each new world works, and is agonizingly (for us) solitary until he decides who his new friends will be. But his choices for friendships have always stood the test of time, and with each move, the time between arriving and settled gets shorter.
He’s grown from a sturdy eight year old to a 5’10” young galumph, who now gets to do all the heavy lifting. The last year has seen the most speedy growth, and he still hasn’t quite figured out where he ends, and the wall / door/ person next to him begins. It was a strange sensation after a lifetime of ‘hold my hand’ or ‘stay close by’ to have to physically move him to arm’s length when walking after being ‘run over’ by him three times in the previous ten minutes. And yet despite his testosterone-fueled choice of field sport, he is the one that can be found gently stroking Murphy, the blind, deaf and ancient dog that has traveled along with us. Or sitting motionless on the couch in cramped contortions because he doesn’t want to disturb a friend’s youngest daughter who has fallen asleep while curled up next to him.
He has a great ability to laugh at himself. His teenage moments have been all at once insulting, infuriating and hilarious, but if you can hold on to your temper and tongue and keep smiling at him, eventually his lengthy tirade on your failings runs out of steam and hears himself. And a wry smile will creep across his face, and inevitably makes him laugh. Most of his early pictures show a great grin and a huge twinkle in his eyes, and for the early expat years, they were replaced by a cautious watchful expression. But with impending adulthood, his twinkle is back, and with it a confident, dry humor that’s accuracy has been honed by the years of watching the world.
Next week’s final exams are looming, and with them the return of the ‘parent as dictator’ role. But just for now, I’m going to remember how lucky I am to have a son that I not only love, but really, really like. I might even tell him that I love him. Loudly, in the school parking lot…